Island Academics

By Ben Biddle, Gifft Hill School Headmaster

Education Frames Community

The relationship between a school and its community depends on the school to represent its community — for this to be its absolute determination.

A successful school leads children to become confident and worldly ambassadors of all that is best about their way of life. On St. John, a proper education should instill in students the wisdom to value — and ultimately bring benefit to — their exceptional home.

One of my preoccupations as an educator is the adjustments schools must continually make to compete with the speed of information bombarding students, and I find it intriguing that this process might elicit greater performance in the teaching profession.

Be that as it may: in this age, a school needs to immerse itself within its community while evolving its resources and instructional techniques to correspond with a vastly connected world.

What is global impresses powerfully upon what is local — markedly more so today than even a decade ago. Notions and occupations abound tempting young minds astray, especially when roots are not strong.

An advanced, personalized program of education serves as the vehicle by which a community — particularly one as singular as that of St. John — maintains its scale, the integrity of its traditions, amid intensive global forces. And education is, equally, the means to explore what is positive in these forces.

Traveling, attending a wonderful university, knowing another language, trying to comprehend New York City; thinking about Asia, or politics, or innovations in technology; walking tall because of complex experiences, because of diverse friendships, because of great teachers, because of a joyous year way back in pre-school: this is the range we must afford the children of St. John if we are going to equip them to serve as the island’s stewards.

Education occupies the lion’s share of childhood — and school, along with community, should engender in students affirmative, worldly notions of responsibility. The magic then, is when young adults return to their communities to live: wise to the labyrinth of the 21st century, excited to oversee and protect what they love best.